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N.C. U.S. Senator: FAA funding authorization includes tighter regulation of high-altitude balloons

A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on Wednesday. The U.S. is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over U.S. airspace.
Larry Mayer/AP
File: In 2023, the U.S. tracked a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over U.S. airspace.

The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, which funds the agency, has now passed in both the U.S. House and Senate, and it includes a provision from a North Carolina lawmaker and an Arizona former astronaut and Senator that would more tightly regulate high-altitude balloons.

The legislation was prompted by a balloon that tracked across the U.S. in February of 2023 before it was shot down by the military off the coast of South Carolina; it was referred to as a Chinese surveillance balloon.

The ‘Seeing Objects at Altitude Regularly’, or SOAR Act, directs the FAA to issue new regulations to require that all high-altitude balloons operating 18,000 feet above sea level be equipped with a tracking system that will transmit the balloon’s altitude, identity, and location.

North Carolina U.S. Sen. Budd said the legislation was written in order to better protect America’s skies.

Sen. Mark Kelly said it will strengthen national security by equipping the military with the necessary tools to identify and respond to potential threats swiftly and effectively.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to eastern North Carolina in 2019 to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of kiddo cuddling, reading, and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to westona@cravencc.edu.